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iPads in Medical Education: Gimmick or Legitimate?


Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania recently began issuing iPads to all incoming students.

Rohaid Ali, undergraduate student at University of Pennsylvania and Rhodes Scholar finalist, discusses how incorporating iPads has impacted medical education at Perelman. He also discusses their value for students and residents in clinical settings and how they might be used in patient education.

Announcer: These are the conversations happening inside healthcare that are going to transform healthcare. The Healthcare Insider is in The Scope.

Ali: Hi, I'm Rohaid Ali. I'm a Medical Education Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Interviewer: Tell me a little about using iPads in medical education. Is it a gimmick or is it legitimate?

Ali: We're asking right now, can iPads really change the way medical students are being educated? Can it lead to more active learning, can it promote teamwork? In the fall of 2012, Perelman went digital and gave all of its first and second year students iPads. What we found from conducting a survey is that 90% of the students, when asked if they would give it to the following year's class, say yes, that it should be given to the following year's class. They really like it. Sixty one percent say it has replaced our need for paper.

Perelman is actually able to save about three million copies a year because we're no longer providing these hard syllabi. The students don't have to lug around hundreds of pieces of paper. They can look up the information right on the iPad. It saves a great deal of money in terms of printing costs. Students have a single portable device where they can read, take and share notes with one another. There are a lot of benefits, and a lot of benefits that we're continuing to uncover as the students now are beginning to use them now more in their clinical years.

Students who are on rotations are being asked by their attending physicians to provide the most up-to-date information and they're able to do that now. They can perform active literature searches on the wards. It's just so much information at their fingertips. This is very helpful for the doctors they're working with and with the health care team there on.

Interviewer: Because instead of memorizing all this information like you had to . . .

Ali: Exactly.

Interviewer: Now you have it at your fingertips at any moment in a very portable device.

Ali: Medicine is changing so much. Over the past hundred years we've seen the worth of the doctor being determined by how much material they know, how much knowledge they know. Now we're seeing the worth of the doctor being determined by how much information can they learn, new information. Are they active learners, are they continuing to educate themselves.

By teaching students using the iPads we're promoting that form of learning where the value is now placed on active learning rather than just knowing a vast body of knowledge because knowledge continues to change.

Interviewer: Was it a hard sell to the dean?

Ali: It was not. The Senior Vice Dean for Education, Dr. Gail Morrison, is very student-centered. These are the same questions that she's asking herself because this is a huge commitment. This is a huge new initiative. You're no longer giving students paper syllabi. You're no longer having hard textbooks, having all iPads. It was a big shift and it was a big risk, but based on the results of the survey it seems that it's been a very popular decision, that students are using it for the right reasons and they really appreciate the iPads.

Interviewer: They're not just checking their Facebook accounts.

Ali: Well, they're probably doing that, too, to be honest.

Interviewer: Well, social media is a big part of the future of what you going to have to [inaudible 00:03:06], so . . .

Ali: Exactly. But there are still many questions left unanswered. How are the students using the iPads during their clinical years? How can usage of the iPad be more incorporated into patient interaction? For example, there's a lot of potential for the iPad to be used to educate patients.

Interviewer: How so? How would that work?

Ali: So you can show the patient real-time information. You can show video to them using the iPad. In our country we have a huge problem with health literacy and this has enormous consequences. It leads to patients not being able to adhere to their medications well enough, not being able to make informed medical decisions. Technologies like these have a huge potential to solve that problem.

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